March 6, 2017 Updated: March 6, 2017 at 7:12 pm
The EPA’s Denver office could be a target for closure as the Trump administration looks to make deep cuts in federal regulatory programs.
The environmental newsletter InsideEPA.com reported Monday that the Office of Management & Budget had instructed the EPA to study the potential of two regional offices being merged with others as a means toward “efficiencies.”
Denver could be the recipient of merged offices, as well.
The Environmental Protection Agency maintains 10 regional offices. The Denver-based Region 8 office oversees environmental programs and regulations in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and for 27 tribes.
District 8 is home to 10 million people, with two-thirds coming from Colorado’s Front Range and Utah’s Wasatch Front.
Nationally, EPA has an $8.1 billion budget and last year had 15,376 employees, both figures are the lowest totals in 15 years. The EPA had 2,182 fewer employees than when President Bush took office in 2001.
A merger could send Denver’s EPA office to District 7 in Kansas City, Mo; District 6 in Dallas; District 9 in San Francisco; or District 10 in Seattle.
“It is unconscionable that the Trump administration is considering such a decimation of the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Jessica Goad, a spokeswoman for Conservation Colorado. “The employees of EPA’s Region 8 in Denver do incredibly valuable work benefiting the entire Mountain West region, from ground-breaking research to cleaning up polluted sites to enforcing public health and environmental laws.
“There are many unanswered questions for Colorado and the West, but the evidence thus far about President Trump’s disregard for our land, air and people is alarming.”
Efforts to get a comment from the EPA were unsuccessful Monday afternoon. Instead a Denver spokeswoman said the agency’s headquarters would respond to questions, but so far they haven’t.
The Associated Press reported Friday that the Trump administration is considering a draft budget that would slash programs on climate change, water safety and air quality, as well as eliminating as many as 3,000 jobs.
Inside EPA senior correspondent Doug Obey reported Monday that the cuts are being justified as efficiencies, but that some states are concerned about being able to handle the responsibilities that Scott Pruitt, the EPA’s new administrator, has said he would hand off to them.
The EPA’s next budget could be reduced by 25 percent overall, with a 30 percent cut to state grants and about 20 percent reduction in personnel costs.
“The proposed restructuring of regional offices comes amid suggestions that the Trump administration will seek to elevate the role of states in managing their own environmental programs, and reduce overlap between the regions with state programs,” Inside EPA reported.
Obey added, “Whether the proposed regional pare-back will be included in the final budget document is not entirely clear, but it appears generally consistent with earlier indications that EPA was mulling ways to pare back alleged duplication, within its regional offices, of state efforts, including regional enforcement efforts.”